Looking for a status fix? Perhaps you already know this: No status symbol is too far away from erosion and depreciation. Take the Emirates Airbus 380 suites. Until last year, they were the No. 1 idea to lust after. Today, it’s the iPad from Apple.

Balancing act: Using the keyboard with only one hand free has its limitations.

The iPad is not an indicator of your bank balance. But it does make a good conversation starter. Says Mukundan Regunathan, CEO of Pepper Square, a Bangalore-based interactive services design company, who recently picked up an iPad in the US and became one of the country’s earliest users: “It’s a device to lust after. All my clients want to see it. What they really enjoy is the way it feels, its slender form factor and its brilliant display." But Regunathan points out that the device has its limitations and—dare we say—flaws. Regunathan says that for a multimedia device, its speakers are poor and the pop-up keyboard is suspect when it comes to usage.

This writer used the iPad and thought, yeah, Regunathan is right. The device has more than a fair share of issues. Here’s stuff you should know before you start lusting after it.

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One-hand jive?

The iPad is supposed to be a device you can hold in your hands like a book. That’s what makes it really personal and revolutionary—the fact that it is just half-an-inch thick and weighs 0.68kg enables you to hold it like a personal TV. Now, think about this for a moment: You are holding your very own, super-svelte, 9.7-inch flat-screen TV in your hands, feeling the legendary “curve on its back" (iPad’s official literature describes it thus) and want to use the pop-up keyboard. At best, you will have one hand free while you try to use the keyboard. How will you type efficiently? It’s not really logical. Writing and handwriting recognition should be a native feature of the device. But that could mean using a stylus (you could use a finger too, but that’s not great for people with thick-set fingers) and Apple wouldn’t want its brilliant backlit display scratched, would it? So you just have to live with this limitation.

A pronounced multimedia problem

The iPad is stupendous when it comes to accessibility. It has a screen reader for the vision impaired. And this comes as part of the original shipment. Besides, the device features something called VoiceOver, where you just touch a feature on the screen and it tells you its function—in 21 different languages. It has one more great feature. Try holding down your finger on any word on the screen and the iPad’s inbuilt dictionary pops up to display the meaning (aside from magnifying the word). Children will love this feature and it will encourage them to locate the exact meaning of words effortlessly. The big question is, why does the dictionary not have a simple audio pronunciation option when it has a screen reader? Some things will remain a mystery and we just need to wait for future builds of the device.

Look ma, no USB!

Can you imagine any multimedia device today that does not have a USB port? The iPad doesn’t. Dinky cameras and watches have USB ports. Cup warmers and pencil sharpeners have USB ports. But the iPad does not have a USB port or a slot for an SD card. C’mon, even the Kindle, which is even more slender at 0.36 inches, has a USB port. And surely, an SD card slot, which even cheap phones flaunt, is not asking for too much? Especially when the iPad is being positioned as a personal entertainment device that is supposed to change the way you experience movies and photos and music? Fundamentally, not having the SD card option reduces the number of movies or amount of music you can carry with you on an iPad. If you own a 16GB iPad, just give up the idea of a portable movie library.

One picture short of a story

Many will tell you—correctly—that the iPad is either a music player, video device and an e-book reader on steroids, or that it is a social media device to connect over Wi-Fi (and now 3G) and browse and chat. But it doesn’t have a camera. Can any multimedia device worth its salt ever hope to live that one down? And, nope, since it doesn’t have a USB port, you can’t clip an external camera to the iPad. In short, no live video capability.

Not available? Not really

The iPad can’t be bought at an Apple store in India. Not yet. But you already knew that, isn’t it? However, if you just can’t wait and must have one of these nifty things right now, without making a trip to the US (what with volcanic ash threatening to play spoilsport), you could order it over 20North (www.20north.com). All three models that work over Wi-Fi are available at Rs39,000-49,000 (shipping and custom duty included).

Arun Katiyar is a content and communication consultant with a focus on technology companies. He is a published author with HarperCollins International and has extensive media experience spanning print, radio, the Internet and mobiles.

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